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The Best – And Worst – Examples Of Social Media Contests I've Seen

Content Marketing 7 minute read

As any business knows (or should know by now), social media can be a critical part of your marketing strategy.

But competition is at an all-time high, and companies are struggling to keep fans and followers engaged. A recent trend that has started to generate much-needed buzz is social media contests.

Recently Jay Baer touched on this topic with a blog post about the 13 Ingredients in the Perfect Social Media Contest.

Today I'm going to touch on two of the best — and worst — examples of contests on social media that I've seen.

The Best Social Media Contest Example

I might be biased (as you'll soon see) about the best example of a social media contest I've seen this year.

In March, Travelocity, with the help of their marketing agency, McKinney decided to launch a huge social media contest dubbed #iWannaGo.

According to their press release, "On a mission to inspire people to do things they've never done and see things they've never seen, Travelocity and The Roaming Gnome are inviting consumers once again to "Go & Smell the Roses" in a series of new advertising, digital and promotional efforts that encourage would-be travelers to actively dream about where they want to go."

One reason I think this was the best example of a social media contest this year is due to the integrated marketing approach Travelocity took to promote their contest.

What do we mean by integrated marketing approach?

Although it was a fun social media contest, it was supported with traditional TV spots thanks to their integrated partnership with "The Amazing Race."

(In fact, that's how I first learned about the contest. I'm a self-proclaimed Amazing Race superfan and happened to see the commercial while watching one Sunday night.)

But what really helped me connect with this contest is that I LOVE to travel. If I had an unlimited amount of money and no cares in the world, I would travel 24/7, and apparently that's exactly what Travelocity was out to accomplish. 

Travelocity knew how to engage me (and others like me) because they understand their target buyers. This is step #1 in creating a successful social campaign.

"Focusing on #iWannaGo in our newest campaign is more than just a contest. It's a way to celebrate the universal truth of wanderlust and to encourage travelers to share their travel dreams with others," said Bradley Wilson, chief marketing officer, Travelocity North America. 

So while watching the Race, I leaned over to my iPhone (which just happen to be right near by) and decided to enter the contest. It was as simple as tweeting @RoamingGnome with the hashtag #iWannaGo and the destination I wanted to go to. I decided to tweet out the destination I've been planning on visiting in 2015 for my birthday. 

And what happened next was a complete surprise...I WON!!!!

Never in a million years did I expect that I'd actually win! A few weeks after sending out a simple tweet, I got a message from @RoamingGnome that I had won their contest. (See previous comment about my bias on the best example of a social media contest.)

My Dad and I at Macchu Picchu holding a picture of our last vacation, 27 years ago.

I don't have any insight from Travelocity, but I would assume that even though the contest is over, they still have a large following of fans. 

According to a study by SocialTimes, the users who interact with brand content frequently participate after the contest, and nearly 85 percent of people share branded content after entering a contest.

So before you get started with your social media campaign, ask yourself: Are you ready with branded content to engage people after the contest ends?

Do you need to set up a winning content strategy or establish a marketing funnel to keep people engaged long after the contest ends?

Otherwise, you're just doing a giveaway... but not moving people further with your brand.

Download our complete guide to qualify and define your business leads.

I personally know that even after I won, followers of the Roaming Gnome were still actively engaged on Twitter with the Gnome and the #iWannaGo hashtag. I constantly was getting tweets from other users with congratulations, messages of jealousy and even retweets that I had won.

As you'll see below with the worst example, that isn't always the case.

Because Travelocity has spent the last 10+ years building such a strong brand voice around the Roaming Gnome, this was just the next step to engage their existing fan base and a great way to gain more followers who can relate to their business.

Who isn't always planning their next trip or doesn't have a dream to travel somewhere exotic?

The Worst Example

So, what do I chalk up as being the worst example of a social media contest this year?

That award would have to go to Esurance for their Twitter sweepstakes immediately following the Super Bowl. 

The rules were simple: Tweet "#EsuranceSave30" for a chance to win $1.5 million. The phrase refers to the fact that Esurance says it saved 30%, or $1.5 million, by running the spot immediately following the game, rather than during the game.

Initially it looked like Esurance had hit gold with their contest.

According to them, 2.39 million people had entered the contest, including 200,000 entries that streamed in within one minute of the spot airing.

It was trending globally on Twitter and had generated over 1 billion impressions. Just like the Travelocity contest, the main promotion was done utilizing traditional TV ads. You'd also think that it was a success considering the company’s Twitter following exploded, growing from 8,900 to more than 110,000. 

So where did they go wrong?

Augie Ray provided an exhaustive review of the contest and and the results Esurance saw. First, with such a high profile social media contest, there was a high risk of hashtag hijacking (including offensive tweets). This is always a concern with such a high profile contest and to be honest Travelocity could have had the same problems.

Second, within just a week of announcing the contest, Esurance had already lost over 15% of their "new" followers.

The issue with Esurance's contest was that it's main purpose was to build brand awareness.

There was no follow-up marketing funnel set up to drive people back to engage with the brand.

According to Augie, awareness can be a legitimate marketing goal under certain circumstances, such as for new products, upstart brands or brands that need to alter brand associations.

But why would a brand with a nine-figure marketing budget that has been advertising in national media for a decade still need to invest in awareness?

The worst social media contenst happened from a lack of understanding the buyer's journey and the importance of engaging beyond that first impression.

How can I guarantee continued success after my contest?

Social media contests can be a great way to expand the reach of your business, however, it's important to think about what your business goals really are.

In the example above, Esurance took the wrong route by deciding to have their business goal for their contest be brand awareness. Awareness can be a legitimate marketing goal under certain circumstances, such as for new products, upstart brands, or brands that need to alter brand associations — but for many other businesses, it makes more sense to focus on reengagement.

Travelocity took what was already a strong brand with the Roaming Gnome and enhanced it even further by having him give away the trip of a lifetime.

I'll admit, as much of a fan of the Gnome I am and the fact that I love to travel as much as possible, I had not been following @RoamingGnome or @Travelocity prior to entering the contest.

However, I will continue to follow them because I can connect with their brand and their business due to our shared interest: travel.

So, how can you utilize social media contests to grow success? Learn how to attract, engage, and close audiences using the inbound marketing model.

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